Jerry Gappens, General Manager
MANCHESTER, N.H. - There was no buckling under the pressure for Cara Peters. At Saturday's Speedway Star inside the Mall of New Hampshire, the part-time cowgirl gave a stirring rendition of the national anthem, earning first-place honors in the fifth annual singing competition and a spot singing the "The Star Spangled Banner" on the speedway stage during the July NASCAR Camping World RV Sales 301 race weekend.
"I entered the competition because a couple of friends told me to, and I'm absolutely blown away that I did so well. I'm just really excited to be here and have this opportunity," said Peters, a 24-year-old native of Mont Vernon, N.H. "I've driven by New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but I've never been inside. I cannot wait to sing there."
Peters, who does competitive cowboy-mounted shooting on horseback in her spare time and wore an oversized belt buckle in honor of it, garnered the most points from a celebrity panel of judges that included Cliff Blake of Republic Nashville Records, legendary NASCAR pit reporter Dick Berggren and WOKQ's Karen Kiley of the "Morning Waking Crew with Mark and 2K." Kiley's co-host, Mark Ericson, served as the emcee.
Defending Speedway Star champion Whitney Doucet (Fitchburg, Mass.) finished second and will sing the national anthem at the September NASCAR SYLVANIA 300 race weekend.
"I came back because singing at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the most fun place to sing and an amazing experience for me," said the 23-year-old Doucet, who sang the anthem at last year's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at NHMS. "This was such a talented field of singers here today. I was really impressed by them."
Peters and Doucet were two of 10 contestants hailing from across New England and ranging in age from 21 to 52. More than 30 singers submitted a DVD, CD, .wav file or .mp3 file of them singing "The Star Spangled Banner" a cappella style (without music or other accompaniments). The 10 competing on Saturday were chosen by a panel of speedway officials.
"I was impressed by not only the quality of the performances, but varying versions. Everyone kind of took it upon themselves to do something a little different, and that was fascinating to me," said Blake, who works with popular music groups such as Florida Georgia Line, The Eli Young Band and The Band Perry. "I was impressed by all of their skills and talents. Those were 10 terrific finalists."
The field was so strong that New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials made room for a third winner. That went to Jilly Martin (Chelmsford, Mass.), who was the first to take the microphone in the contest. No decision has been made yet as to which race Martin will perform, but it won't be her first visit to the speedway. Martin has performed the Canadian national anthem at the Magic Mile before.
"I'm glad I get to do that particular song this year, it's always an honor," said the 27-year-old, who has opened for country stars Miranda Lambert and Eric Church. "This was a really cool event and I'm thrilled to have the chance to sing at the speedway."
This year's racing season will once against be highlighted by two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends, including the Camping World RV Sales 301 on July 13 and the SYLVANIA 300 on Sept. 21. To purchase tickets, which now include special pricing for kids under the age of 12, call the track's ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931 or by visiting www.nhms.com.